Sunday, March 3, 2024

9 Ways Sustainability Is Helping Legacy Luxury Brands Thrive


As sustainability becomes a growing priority for consumers, legacy luxury brands are embracing change.

The Cambridge Dictionary offers two definitions for the term Sustainable. The first one: Able to continue over a period of time and the Second: Causing, or made in a way that causes, little or no damage to the environment and is therefore able to continue for a long time. One phrase is common in both definitions. Able to continue over a period of time!

The oldest luxury fashion brands and Maisons still in operation, have achieved the ability to survive through difficult times, and have shown (more than once) remarkable resilience during crises when obstacles seemed insurmountable. And if today’s luxury brands want to be able to continue creating for a long long time to come, they have no other choice but to change and adjust again and become sustainable.

‘The great shift’

It is true. The number of luxury fashion brands that lend their ear to our planet’s needs is growing. Innovative techniques and new production methods in order to reduce impact are put in place. Wise use, not abuse, of our natural resources is at the center of all efforts and discussions among the industry’s Executives and Creatives. It is clear: The moment of the great shift has arrived.

vivienne westwood letter to earth
Vivienne Westwood | courtesy Letters to Earth

Fashion Designers like Stella McCartney, the late Vivienne Westwood, Katharine Hamnett, Jil Sander, and brands like Marni and Gucci celebrate sustainability and use fashion as a vehicle of activism. Commitment to new environmental benchmarks, ethical, and positive social developments (like paying all employees, wherever they might be, living wages), use of eco-friendly, traceable materials, and targeted campaigns to raise awareness are just some of the ways with which luxury brands fight against climate change and all types of socioeconomic inequalities.

A kind of evolution that will make the whole of the luxury fashion sector lighter, more equalitarian, and aligned with the pressing demands of our environment is compulsory.

Having said all that, it would be really interesting (and hopefully illuminating for us all) to read some facts that link Sustainability and Fashion with our today’s reality.

  1. The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supplies.
  2. Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water.
  3. Brands are developing water-saving techniques. Dockers’ system, called Water<Less has enabled the brand to save billions of litres of water.
  4. Sustainable clothes help reduce emissions and our dependence on petroleum and other finite natural resources.
  5. According to a McKinsey report, three-fifths of all clothing items will end up in an incinerator or landfill just a year after their production.
  6. Fast Fashion is an issue! Zara offers 24 new clothing collections each year; H&M offers 12 to 16 and refreshes them weekly. Among all European apparel companies, the average number of clothing collections has more than doubled, from two a year in 2000 to about five a year in 2011.
  7. More than 60 percent of millennials say they want to shop “sustainably.”
  8. Adidas plans to use only recycled plastic by 2024.
  9. Less than one percent of materials used to produce clothing are recycled for new clothing.

Following the current trend, the negative effects of the fashion industry could be catastrophic. “If the industry continues on its current path, by 2050, it could use more than 26% of the carbon associated with a 2 Celsius pathway,” says McKinsey.  

As seen in the data, two things immediately stand out! One: Things are not so bright. But, Two: There are ways to better our current situation, and change is already noticeable.

Sustainable solutions

The solutions and the necessary technology are there. They are just waiting to be applied. Much much more innovative techniques are being developed the moment these lines are being typed and will (hopefully) find their place—very shortly—in the production processes of all luxury fashion brands (and not only!).

We’ve said it before, a turn to eco-friendlier materials and fabrics will help enormously. There are vegan options, recycled options, organic options, and carbon-negative options—so many options! Fashion designers have just to decide which they prefer.

fashion wastewater
Courtesy Jingwen Yang | Pexels

Transitioning to more sustainable packaging, adopting a slow-fashion mindset, respect animals and plant rights, are more paths toward Solution Land. Circular economy, vintage market, use and re-use of unused garments and raw materials will also make a big difference. A great artist can create with anything.

The fact that high-end fashion has become more inclusive (in all senses) is undeniable. Barriers are falling and frontiers become wider every day. If luxury brands keep pacing in the same direction, their profits will not only be financial. Inclusivity will be the next constructive element of Exclusivity.

The difficult thing to change is not the Modus Operandi but the state of mind. Choice is action’s first showing. Tangible, quantifiable effects and results, are based on honest, caring, sober, contextualised, deep thinking. If we are so strong to change our way of thinking, we will be strong enough to shift this negative current that today seems to keep us far away from total salvation. Clear, courageous thinking bears Herculean strength and this kind of strength shapes Consciousness. From then on, only goodness emerges.

Joan Calabia operates as the Director of Brand Marketing for Dockers Europe at Levi Strauss & Co. Joan’s experience spans the intricacies of marketing operations to creating immersive consumer experiences. He continues to lead the brand direction adapting to the new generation of casual consumers in our era, while maintaining the California cool lifestyle that is heritage to the brand.

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